The Metagrobologist: Eric Fuller Interview

Source: The Metagrobologist - Issue 5
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If you are unaware, Eric Fuller is a prominent and popular mechanical puzzle and puzzle box maker, who produces highly prized and collectable puzzles of his own and other design. Many of Eric Fuller’s puzzles can be found on his great website and he continues to produce handcrafted puzzles from his workshop.

Eric graciously took the time to complete an interview regarding his own puzzles, website and his collaboration with some of the most elite and acclaimed puzzle designers across the world.

MG: Eric it’s an honour to finally get a chance to discuss your puzzle craft. Can we ask what tools and equipment you use to produce your beautiful puzzles?

Eric: I use the usual variety of woodworking tools. Crosscut saw, jointer and planer to accurately dimension the raw stock, then a table saw, milling machine and routers to mill the stock into complex pieces. The real art is in the jigs you have to create for each puzzle. Interpreting the joinery of the design and then making the jigs to accurately produce the pieces is the tricky part. Everything else is really just pushing wood through a saw…admittedly with a lot of attention to detail.

MG: Can you tell us when you first decided to start making puzzles?

Eric: I started off as a collector, very randomly. It was fall 2002, I was up late at night and I saw a Japanese puzzle box on eBay. It was 27 moves and a very basic design. I thought it sounded interesting, so I bought it. I solved it quickly but was absolutely fascinated with it so started looking for other designs and became a collector.

Back then there were very few puzzles commonly available. I snapped those up and of course, the next step was starting to collect bespoke puzzles from the likes Wayne Daniels and Tom Lensch. Well, I couldn’t afford many of those and besides, they were always sold out!

I can’t remember when it happened, but I came across a website where someone mentioned making burr puzzles from square home depot sticks and a mitre box saw. I didn’t know what that was, but I figured the guys at Home Depot would, so off I went! I bought some poplar sticks and a mitre saw, however, what I really wanted was a full 42-piece notchable set.

I figured out how to cut the long sticks into smaller sticks and then how to cut the front and back of the notches, but I couldn’t figure out how to get the wood out of the middle. I went back to Home Depot and the guy told me I needed a chisel, so I purchased one and that went well!

Anyway, I finally got the first puzzle finished, and after putting it together something clicked in my head. I MADE THAT! It was so cool. I’d never made anything before. This seemed much more satisfying than my job in IT.

That year I took off the entire week between Christmas and New Year and sat there sawing away on my kitchen table for the week. I made bunches of puzzles over the Christmas period and they weren’t bad! Well, they were, but I thought they were pretty good. After that, I started trading puzzles with a few collectors and before you know it people were offering me money for them.

By spring 2003 I started at first to show off my collection, and then later to sell puzzles so I could afford to buy more tools (and of course puzzles from other makers). I made and sold puzzles part-time for about a year, then relocated from San Diego to Raleigh. Of course, chasing a girl I’d met. I ended up marrying her, we didn’t work out, but she encouraged me to pursue my passion making puzzles instead of finding another job in tech, and I’ll always be grateful to her for that. Thanks, Sharon.

Read the Eric Fuller article in full in ISSUE 5 of TheMetagrobologist